China sexual assault scandals rekindle hushed up discussion #MeToo

A protester holds a #MeToo sign in court ahead of a sexual harassment case involving a Chinese state television host, in Beijing, China on December 2, 2020. REUTERS / Florence Lo / File Photo

SHANGHAI, Aug. 10 (Reuters) – Extensive coverage in China of sexual assault scandals involving tech giant Alibaba and celebrity Kris Wu, with no obvious censorship, has reignited debate on the subject in a country where the # movement MeToo has already been hushed up.

Sexual harassment and assault were for years rarely addressed in public in China until the #MeToo movement took root in 2018, to face online censorship and official repression, including the arrest of activists.

Exchanges on the social media platform Weibo about sexual harassment suffered by women in the workplace, or during drinking with co-workers, were among the most discussed topics Monday and Tuesday, with more than 500 million of views.

“Who will protect working women from the nasty drinking culture?” And “how should women in the workplace protect themselves against sexual harassment?” were among the hottest related topics.

State broadcaster CCTV posted a video citing experts on steps women could take to gather evidence in cases of sexual assault, prompting social media users to say it should be on men to know that such actions were reprehensible.

Recently, police arrested Chinese-Canadian pop singer Kris Wu on allegations that underage women drank alcohol and seduced them. On Monday, tech giant Alibaba Group (9988.HK) fired an employee after being accused of sexual assault by a woman.

It was not immediately clear why none of these cases had been censored inside China’s “Great Firewall”.

Analysts say the cases emerged at a time when authorities discouraged excessive celebrity worship and Alibaba became the main target of a campaign to curb Chinese tech giants after years of an approach. largely passive.

Zhan Jiang, a retired journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the scrutiny of the Wu and Alibaba cases was not sensitive to the government.

“Entertainment has nothing to do with politics,” Zhan said.

“Alibaba is currently in the eye of the storm, and it has little to do with official interests, so the authorities are not affected.”


China says it seeks to empower women and protect their rights, and last year enacted legislation that for the first time defines what actions can constitute sexual harassment.

But China does not tolerate activities and rhetoric that it believes could stir up social order or signify a challenge to its authority, and pressure has continued on feminist groups, who have seen their channels or platforms in line closed in recent months. Read more

In 2015, authorities arrested five activists, dubbed the “Five Feminists,” who were planning to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport.

Three years later, the #MeToo hashtag on Weibo, along with alternatives, was censored after dozens of people took to the platform to post testimonials of sexual harassment by figures such as monks, professors and media figures.

Still, #MeToo activists said they were encouraged that the fury over the Wu and Alibaba affairs was fueling a new awareness.

A detailed account from another woman, who said on Weibo that she was assaulted at a working dinner while working for running giant Didi Global (DIDI.N), is also went viral with over 3 million views and thousands of comments. A spokesperson for Didi did not respond to requests for comment.

“It will certainly have a positive impact,” said Zhou Xiaoxuan, who in 2018 fueled the movement by publicly accusing TV personality Zhu Jun of state broadcaster CCTV of groping and forcing kissing her. ‘he denies.

Zhou sued Zhu for damages three years ago, but his complaint has not been resolved.

“It broadens the pool of support for feminist rights and also stimulates discussion of sexual assault from a position of power,” she said of recent high profile cases.

Reporting by Brenda Goh and Sophie Yu; Additional reporting by Yilei Sun Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel

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